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Defense was once again the staple for the Bulldogs, as they improved to 2-0 on the year, defeating Itawamba, 20-7, on Friday.
“Coach tells us defense wins championships, offense puts people in the stands,” senior linebacker Riley Alef said. “The score says it pretty much, and as long as they keep from scoring, they can’t win.”
Both teams combined for five first quarter turnovers, as neither could convert on fourth down plays, and Jerry Davis put the first points on the board for the ‘Dawgs, taking an interception return 80 yards to make it 7-0 after the first quarter.
New Albany opened the second quarter with a drive at the 50-yard line, and Spencer Day connected with Josh Creekmore for his first passing touchdown of the year. The Indians later had a blocked punt, following that with their lone score, and Riley Alef helped set the Bulldogs up for their final score with his interception return to the Itawamba 18 yard line with 13.3 seconds remaining in the half that set up a pass from Day to Josh Hardin, making it 20-7 at the break.
“I told him (Hardin) tonight was his night to get one,” NAHS head coach Ron Price said. “He made an outstanding adjustment on his route, and Spencer did a great job hitting him in the end zone. That’s going to come more once they get more used to each other and experience in each other.”
Itawamba threatened late in the game, blocking a second punt, and Price noted this area being one his team has to work on, as they are relying on a first time punter in Alef.
“We put Riley back there because we felt that if anything fell apart with the punting game, he would make wise decisions with the football, and he did the best he could tonight,” Price said. “He’s just trying to get he ball off and make a play when everything breaks down. I just trust the ball in his hands with his senior leadership, his football knowledge, and just him making something good happen with the football game.”
“It’s whatever’s best for the team, so if I’m the one that has to be back there trying to punt it, because I’m not a punter, then I’m willing to make the sacrifice,” Alef said of his added role.
The Bulldogs have once again held their opponents to 14 points or less, and Price attributes his team’s success to this unit.
“We told people coming into the season that we’re going to have to rely on our defense to help us out during the early part of the year, and that’s exactly what we’ve had the last two weeks,” he said. “The only touchdown for Itawamba tonight was the result of our mistakes, so we have to clean that up. It was an outstanding showing by our defense, those kids just keep doing amazing things, and hopefully with each week, they’ll continue to get better as our offense comes along.”
New Albany will next take on Pontotoc in the home opener next Friday, Sept. 2.